ShopTalk Crashes the Retail Tech Party

Joe Skorupa
Editor at Large
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By Joe Skorupa

ShopTalk is shaping up to be the biggest event to crash the retail tech party in a decade. Hopefully, you can go to Las Vegas on May 15-18 and tell me about its amazing success, because I can’t make it. I am booked to attend another major event that week. However, I recently spoke to ShopTalk founder Anil Aggarwal about why the crowded spring schedule needs a new event. He had a pretty good answer.

“ShopTalk will do for retail what Money2020 did for the consumer payments industry,” says Aggarwal, who is the founder and chairman of Money2020, which in four short years has become the largest payment and financial services event in the world. It attracts a stellar roster of CEO speakers and more than 10,000 attendees. If any event could serve as a model for breaking into a busy and firmly established calendar it is Money2020.

Show Me the Money

Aggarwal makes it clear he wants to do for retail what he did for the financial services industry, especially the most innovative part of the industry called fintech. “We build events the way we build tech companies,” says Aggarwal. “We focus on the product, which means we are focusing on the speaker line up and our sessions. Our speakers are remarkable not just for a first year event but for any event.”

He has a point. A short list of announced speakers includes: the co-founder & CEO of Birchbox, founder & CEO of Bonobos, CEO & co-founder of The Honest Company, founder & CEO of Dollar Shave Cub, CEO of eBags, CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, CEO, co-founder & CEO of Rebecca Minkoff, president of & mobile Target, CEO of Adore Me, executive chairman & CEO of Ashley Stewart, president e-commerce for Best Buy, president of Elizabeth Arden Brand, CEO of House of Fraser and way too many C-level speakers to list.

While this is a remarkable achievement for a first-time event, or any event, it still must squeeze into a spring calendar that has more must-attend events than any person or reasonably sized team can cover. A common refrain I hear throughout the industry is, “You could go to a retail event every day of the year if you wanted to.” So, why launch a new one?

The Law of Oversupply

“Whenever an industry enters a game-changing phase there will be an oversupply of subscale solutions and the same is true for retail events today,” says Aggarwal. “Yes, there are too many events now, but it will consolidate. The oversupply is an indication that change is needed. Our approach is different because we want to create a new large-scale event and we already have 1,500 registered attendees signed up, which is ahead of our goal to reach 2,000.”

In addition to a track-record of disruptive success with the launch of Money2020 and strong financial backing from venture capital firms, ShopTalk breaks the current industry mold in several important ways: 1. By placing a clear focal point on innovators and innovation; 2. By doubling down on the highest job title over any other speaker qualification; 3. By providing special opportunities for startups and next-gen retailers; and 4. By creating an ecosystem (“community of commerce”) where investors can set up meetings to evaluate shark-tank-like opportunities on a one-to-one basis.

“We are all about how consumers discover, shop and buy,” says Aggarwal. “There is a changed consumer and the dialogue we are having as an industry needs to change. ShopTalk represents a new way to engage in that dialogue.”

So, as I said, I won’t be attending ShopTalk because I am already booked to attend an event that is at least 10X larger and will have major implications for the business models of a huge swath of retailers and the retail industry as a whole. But that’s just me.

Hopefully you will have space in your calendar to attend the first ShopTalk and, if so, please send me a note about your experience and the place you think it will occupy in the busy spring conference schedule in coming years.

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